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Three NH Companies Agree to Pay Fine to Settle EPA Complaint; Case is Part of EPA Push to Improve Compliance with Stormwater Regulations
Release Date: 08/10/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008
For Immediate Release: Aug. 10, 2004; Release # 04-08-05
BOSTON - Three New Hampshire developers responsible for building a residential subdivision in Methuen, Mass., have agreed to pay $70,000 to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that they failed to get the necessary permits and comply with federal regulations for stormwater discharges from their property.
According to the settlement signed last week, the three companies – Methuen Group Realty Trust and Ashwood Development Companies of Hudson, NH, and Park Construction Corporation of Fitzwilliam, NH – discharged stormwater from the construction site of Birch Hill Estates, a 48-home subdivision in Methuen, without first obtaining a permit.
The homes at Birch Hill Estates range from 2,500 to 3,000 square feet and sit on half-acre lots. Stormwater runoff from the development, which was built on the side of a steep hill, was likely to be problematic without proper controls during construction. Construction at the 75-acre subdivision began in 1998 and is almost finished.
The case stems from several inspections of the site by EPA over the last two years. The Methuen Conservation Commission issued an enforcement order to the site in 2001 for failing to maintain erosion controls necessary to protect wetlands.
EPA regulations require a permit for construction sites that disturb more than one acre of land. The stormwater permit aims to protect waters from harmful pollutants that typically run off such sites and discharge into nearby waters. The permit requires operators of a construction site to develop a detailed management plan for mitigating the effects of stormwater runoff. Contractors, developers and others responsible for day-to-day operations at a construction site must certify that they will properly implement these Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans. The permit also requires on-site workers to regularly inspect stormwater controls and to use management techniques that minimize the impact of their activities on nearby waters.
EPA claims the companies did not adequately mitigate the impact of the construction because it failed to maintain a detention basin, which resulted in turbid water discharging to wetlands and into a brook that eventually leads to the Merrimack River. The Merrimack River provides drinking water to many communities, and is an important environmental, recreational and ecological resource.
Rainwater running off construction sites can carry nutrients, sediments, oils and various other pollutants into nearby streams, ponds and rivers. If not properly managed, erosion from a one-acre construction site could discharge as much as 20 to 150 tons of sediment in a year. Sediments reduce the storage capacity of drains and waterways, causing flooding, and hurt water quality and fish habitat. Sediments and chemicals can also contribute to fish die-offs, toxic algae blooms, contaminated shellfish beds and closed swimming beaches.
EPA has boosted its enforcement of stormwater management, completing over 80 inspections at construction sites throughout New England since July, 2001. A separate stormwater case in Methuen was settled in June 2003 for $50,000. These cases are part of a national enforcement initiative regarding federal stormwater construction requirements. Among the biggest cases was an enforcement settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2004, in which the company agreed to pay a $3.1 million civil penalty and spend $250,000 on an environmental project to will help protect sensitive wetlands and waterways.
EPA has developed written materials, web sites, workshops, and other products to help those involved in construction projects understand how to comply with stormwater laws. EPA New England’s stormwater web site contains many of these resources at www.epa.gov/region01/topics/water/stormwater.html. Developers seeking further assistance can contact Abby Swaine of EPA NE’s Assistance Unit at 617-918-1841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.